Kim Jong Un makes third visit to China in wake of Trump summit
Kim Jong Un was expected to use his third trip to China since March to brief President Xi Jinping on his meeting with Trump, underscoring Beijing’s economic and strategic importance to Pyongyang
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday began an unprecedented third visit to China in three months, with experts saying he is expected to brief the Chinese leadership about his summit with US President Donald Trump last week.
Chinese state media announced Kim’s latest visit ahead of his arrival on Tuesday, breaking from the protocol of publicising his earlier trips only after they were over, and reported he would stay for two days.
“We hope this visit can help to further deepen China-North Korea relations, strengthen strategic communication between both countries on important issues and promote regional peace and stability,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing.
Kim met President Xi Jinping in Beijing in March, the first time he had travelled abroad after assuming power in 2011. Next, he came to the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian in May, when he again met Xi to discuss ties, providing a photo-op of the two leaders taking a stroll on the beach.
On June 12, Kim met Trump in Singapore for what was touted as the most high-profile political summit in recent years. The summit marked the first meeting between a top North Korean leader and a serving US president.
Trump and Kim signed a joint statement that committed the US to providing security guarantees to North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang’s commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
However, the document was criticised for being short on specifics, such as a timeframe for denuclearisation or the steps to be taken by North Korea to wind up its nuclear programme.
Trump also said the US would stop annual joint military exercises with South Korea, which according to Chinese state media has been denounced by Pyongyang as rehearsals for a northward invasion.
Kim’s trip to China to discuss his summit with Trump had been widely anticipated in diplomatic circles. China remains North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic backer and has welcomed the suspension of the US-South Korea military drills.
“Kim may discuss details on implementing the agreement signed in Singapore as North Korea needs assistance on denuclearisation and China is an indispensable part of a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula,” Zhang Huizhi, vice dean of the Northeast Asian Studies College at Jilin University, told state-run Global Times tabloid on Tuesday.
“China will want the US and North Korea to find a peaceful way to resolve tensions and avoid conflict, and they also share the goal of denuclearisation, but their primary interest is maintaining leverage and influence in and over North Korea,” said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
“Ideally for China, a US-North Korea long-term deal would undermine the political rationale in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo for continued US military presence, radars and troops on the peninsula and in Japan,” he added.
China’s dual suspension proposal – North Korea stopping weapons tests and the US and South Korea stopping military drills – has worked out, and the current situation on the Korean Peninsula is favorable for both sides, Zhang said.